The first ten amendments to the United States Constitution form what is known as the Bill of Rights. In essence it is a summary of the basic rights held by all U.S. citizens. However, Negro citizens during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950-70’s felt this document and its mandate that guaranteed the civil rights and civil liberties of all people; were interpreted differently for people of color. The freedoms outlined in the Constitution were not enforced the same by the government of the United States for the black race as it did for the white race.
“You all treat us so bad,” just like we are animals.” Those are the words voiced by Mrs. Rosa Parks, a Negro seamstress. Whose refusal to move to the back of the bus and give her seat to a white man, touched off the enormously successful bus boycott of Montgomery, Alabama in the winter of 1956. But on a greater magnitude it fueled the Civil Rights movement of the Negro American. This incident almost single-handedly galvanized Negroes to insist on equal rights according to the laws of the United States government and to end segregation of all public places.
To build on the Montgomery victory, black leaders and ministers convened in Atlanta, GA in 1957 to form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The SCLC main function would be to coordinate the efforts of the many church-based civil rights groups. The mission of the SCLC was to gain all civil liberties by law and not by violence. With Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as its president, the SCLC would become the country’s most powerful civil rights organization.
With work to do in all areas to bring about social change for the Negro—notably the segregated schools of the South the SCLC made this their first shot across the bough--figuratively speaking. In 1954 the Supreme Court issued its decision on the case Brown v. Board of Education. The Court ruled that separate-but-equal segregated schools violated the Fourteenth Amendment and that school desegregation must take place “with all deliberate speed.”
This order by the highest court of the United States were not embraced by the White Race or by the burceacy of most state governments. The state bureaucracies swung into full force to intimidate anyone associated with the Civil Rights movement. Black protesters as well as sympathizers to the Civil Rights movement were jailed even for peaceably protesting. For instance, during the Albany, Georgia protest, blitz arrests—more than any one locale before. In other marches, K-9 units were used to terrorize prospective marchers and police used power water hose to disperse marchers. The force of the water was so powerful that it rolled people down the streets. Massive murders and lynching were not investigated, but considered a necessary item to deter the Negroes and their Movement.
Groups such as the Black Panthers were villanized by our government. Unlike the SLNC the Panthers wanted...